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Council saves civic treasure

Council saves civic treasure

🕔02.Oct 2012
Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery - Portrait of ...

A painting of 18th century  hospital pioneer Dr John Ash will be bought by Birmingham City Council for £875,000 to stop the work of art from being moved abroad.

The portrait in oils by Sir Joshua Reynolds, which has been on loan in the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery since 1992, is being sold by the Queen Elizabeth Birmingham Hospital Charity to raise funds for specialist cancer treatment.

The sale, expected to be agreed at the next meeting of the city cabinet, won’t cost the council a penny since the purchase is being covered by fundraising and a number of grants including £675,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

John Ash (1723 – 98) was an eminent local physician and co-founder of the Birmingham General Hospital, “for the relief of the sick and lame”.

The portrait was commissioned by the hospital governors in honour of Ash’s services to the people of Birmingham and, such was the esteem in which the doctor was held, the artist selected to undertake the work was Sir Joshua Reynolds , generally regarded as the greatest portrait painter of the age.

There were fears that the painting would be snapped up by a foreign dealer if sold on the open market.

A council spokeswoman said: “The portrait is one of Reynolds’ most elaborate and successful full-length institutional works.

“Its combined historic and artistic qualities make it one of the most important cultural icons of Birmingham and a civic treasure.”


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